A series of articles born out of critically thinking on the works of several Catholic Apologists and comparing their work with Scripture.
To whom should we pray?
How did Jesus teach us to pray? Jesus taught us "the Our Father" in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. To whom do we pray? What did Jesus say? "Our Father, who art in Heaven…" This was a plain answer to a plain question.
Should we pray to Mary or the saints?
Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
When saints get to Heaven, all tears are wiped away. They are focused on the splendor of God. They don't look back to this earth. They have a far greater prize right in front of them. Their heart is no longer where they came from like Lot's wife was (Genesis 19:26). They don't want to look back. While I have no specific Scriptural proof that I can remember at this time, I doubt they could know what is going on down here on earth even if they wanted to. If they did, they would see loved ones grieving their passing. They would see some loved ones fall away from Jesus and follow other gospels or none at all. They would see all the tragedies this life brings. The argument some present is that saints will see the "bigger picture", and therefore will not cry. If they saw that a loved one on his way to Hell, I don't know how they could not cry knowing what they do now. It is the angel's job to be ministering spirit - not the saints. BTW, saints are not angels. Angels are treated as a totally separate created being. God is a jealous God and has instructed us to whom and how we should pray.
I remember when I used to say the Rosary when I was Catholic. It felt like I was doing something good for myself and for God by this act. I recall reciting the prayers so often that they became a repetition of words rather than words from my heart. In a similar way, the repetition of many other prayers were repeated so often that they lost their meaning and became meaningless repetitions. Maybe I am weak, but I suspect that it is human nature that when an action is repeated so often, it becomes an event of going through the motions after a while and the mind is a thousand miles away from what your lips are saying. It is quite interesting and revealing to observe a group of people gathered together and recite prayers by rote. By the looks on some folks faces, the words come out so empty that I fear that the act has been reduced to a ritualistic requirement before eating or other practice rather than a prayer from the heart to God. God warns us against this type of praying:
Matthew 6:7 But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their many words.
Timothy I 6:20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to your trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings…
These verses could not have described any better what I had practiced. If I practiced this then I suspect that others do too (maybe not all, but at least some if they are honest with themselves)…and to make matters worse, we teach our children to do this too… usually from a very young age. There is nothing wrong with saying the "Our Father" prayer…unless it becomes just a meaningless habit in which no attention is paid to the words at all. I fall into the same trap of repetition over and over again. I am constantly fighting this in myself. I think we have to keep in mind that the Lord's prayer was a teaching on how to pray…not necessarily what words do we say. It is a model in which we are to try and pattern our own prayers (from our heart) after.
I find a couple of theological problems with this prayer. It is a prayer addressed to someone other than God which I covered above. It may also be a possible abuse of Scripture. I've read where authors try to defend this prayer by saying that most of the phrases in the Hail Mary are found in Scripture. I have even seen tee shirts where the Scripture is cited for each phrase in the prayer. It starts out with "Hail Mary, full of grace…" They correctly state that this is taken directly from Luke 1:28. However, most know that this was stated by the angel Gabriel when greeting Mary. It was NOT a prayer. It is obvious that Gabriel was not praying to Mary. The "Hail Mary" is a string of verses (with some of man's phrases added) that was taken out of the Bible and used in a sense that it was clearly never intended to be used in. Satan tried to pull the same thing on Jesus:
Luke 4:9 And he [the devil] brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here:
Luke 4:10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you:
Luke 4:11 And in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you strike your foot against a stone.
Luke 4:12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
Just because phrases are taken from Scripture and linked together does not make them a biblical prayer. It would be wrong to string a few verses about Simon Peter and call it a prayer:
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you. (Luk 22:31) Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke Jesus. (Mat 16:22) And Peter took Jesus, and began to rebuke him [again]. (Mar 8:32) Peter said unto Jesus, You will never wash my feet. [rebuking Jesus yet again](Joh 13:8) Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. (Joh 18:10) Then Peter began to curse and to swear, [saying], I don't know this Jesus. (Mat 26:74) But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him face to face, because he was to be blamed. (Gal 2:11) Simon Peter said unto them, I go a fishing. They said unto him, We will also go with you. They went forth, and immediately entered into a ship; and that night they caught nothing. (Joh 21:3)
Admittedly, this is a gross misuse of Scripture, but it is intended to make a point only. One cannot take and string a bunch of phrases together and call them a prayer when it was never intended to be that way. Worse yet, one cannot take a bunch of phrases that are taken out of context or a bunch of phrases about how false gods are worshiped and call that a prayer. The argument that verses are taken from the Bible - "so it must make it a valid prayer" is simply invalid.